Stories of Justice: Tunnel of Oppression

fontbonne university tunnel

Sisters Clare Bass, Sandra Straub and Ida Berresheim team up with a Fontbonne student to be a part of the Tunnel of Oppression program. The program was held March 8 and 9 in the Dunham Student Activity Center.


Fontbonne University's immersion experience

fosters understanding.

ST. LOUIS: Seven CSJs with a focus on social justice—Sisters Jean Abbott, Clare Bass, Ida Berresheim, Rosario Bobadillo, Janet Kuciejczyk, Nancy Marsh and Sandy Straub—participated in Fontbonne University’s first–ever “Tunnel of Oppression” immersion experience that offered students, faculty, staff and community members an opportunity to understand more deeply and more personally the injustice experienced by marginalized populations.

"The program is raising awareness of ways of discrimination," says Sister Clare. "What is the more calling us to? A powerful testament!"

The “tunnel” was made up of a series of rooms where theatrical performances challenged participants to experience the daily stresses and struggles of groups such as students of color, members of the LGBTQ community, members of certain religious groups, undocumented international students, and those who suffer from invisible disabilities and body image issues.

“All of us have blind spots and much to learn about cultures and experiences that are not our own,” says CSJ Associate Mary Beth Gallagher, Fontbonne’s director of Mission Integration. “We hope that the tunnel helps all who participate to realize the unfair challenges that daily life poses to some people in our community.”

For example, to illustrate the challenges of immigrants, participants were told they could “not cross the red line,” but to take red tape off boxes that were fastened with more red tape. To make this even more difficult, they could only reach the boxes by kneeling, stretching, if they could reach them at all.  The lesson—how out of reach getting through the red tape of the immigration process can be.

Sister Ida Berresheim, who served as a facilitator, says, “It was tremendous to lead groups of students through the activities, to be with them as these sobering experiences seemed to impact their lives, and to read the reflections of many.”

Sister Ida adds, “It seems to me to be a particularly valuable experience for these students in the face of the hate crimes we've experienced, the rhetoric we hear from some of our presidential candidates, and the call of Pope Francis continually to engage in conversations that can help to bring us to greater compassion and mercy.” 

Leslie Doyle, Fontbonne director of Service, Diversity and Social Justice believes that this experience is the beginning of many meaningful conversations about oppression across the campus and throughout the community.  “I am hoping that dialogue turns to awareness, knowledge and action for justice for all.”

The Tunnel of Oppression is sponsored by Fontbonne’s Department of Mission Integration and made possible by a grant from the Fontbonne Community Connection (FCC), a women’s giving circle that funds campus initiatives.

Learn more about CSJ-sponsored Fontbonne University. 

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